I am currently blogging about everything. Jump in where you are and thanks for coming by!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Broth : A Primer

So my daughter decided to be a vegetarian this week. We naturally eat a lot of vegetarian food, sometimes by accident and sometimes be design (e.g. "oops I forgot to defrost something" or many times during Lent.) Vegetarianism is not an everyday thing here though. Today my limited options (needed to go to the grocery store but couldn't due to baby's nap schedule) led me to ask Darling Girl if she wanted soup or macaroni and cheese for lunch. She said, "Soup please."

This required some thought. Seeing as Darling Girl is only 7 years old I could have made her some soup with my packages of free-range organic chicken broth, she would never have known. But I decided to make a vegetable broth and stick to the spirit of this experiment. When I chop the ends off of a carrot, I stick the ends in a plastic bag that lives in the freezer, same things with the tops off of onions, or the ends off of celery. I don't keep discards from cabbage, cauliflower or broccoli as these flavors would not suit most broths. I moved recently so my usual hoard of frozen soup veggies was sadly lacking. All I could roust out of the recesses of its frosty heart were some tough ends of asparagus, half a carrot, two parsnips, a couple of onion tops and a pint sized yogurt container of mushroom water. Here's the thing, when I am paying exorbitant rates for CSA organic vegetables, I want to get my money's worth. When you bend and snap an asparagus to remove the woody parts you lose quite a bit of what you paid for. However boiled in water, they add lovely additional flavor to asparagus soups. I had been hesitant to try them in a general vegetable broth, but now I really had no choice. And mushroom water is simply what you get when you rehydrate dried mushrooms, like porcini. You freeze the steeping water and use it to give a wonderful layer of flavor. It isn't excessively "shroomy" but adds richness.

I put everything in the stock pot with an additional fresh onion (quartered), a bay leaf, 2 cloves of smashed garlic and some salt and pepper. I used enough water to cover everything and let it all come to a boil. I reduced it to a simmer after a few minutes and let it go for an additional 30 minutes. After everything cooks together nicely, you just strain out the veggies and retain your lovely broth.

I made a soup today (recipe follows) but you could freeze the broth in quart sized baggies (after it has cooled) or even in ice cube trays, because there are myriad uses for broth. Bullet points!

* use broth instead of water for rice
* broth added to mashed potatoes for flavor/fluffiness
* a cube of broth to deglaze a pan
* make/thin gravy
* add a bit of broth over top of rice before reheating to prevent drying out
* use as a base for some sauces
* cook pasta in broth
* make soups/stews
* steam vegetables

The pasta in broth is an absolute gimme, just cook the pasta as normal in the broth, drain, toss with butter and top with parmesan cheese and voila an easy week night side dish.

Today's soup was adapted from The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook by Jack Bishop. The title of this post is a link that will take you to Amazon to buy this wonderful resource or to learn more about it.

Pasta and Black Bean Soup with Garlic and Rosemary

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp minced dried rosemary (there abouts, I didn't measure.)
1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, drained
salt and freshly ground pepper
7 C of vegetable stock (see above)
6 oz of small pasta (I used elbow macaroni)
4 C of cooked black beans

Heat the oil in stockpot, add the garlic and rosemary and sauté until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and lotsa salt and pepper. Simmer till soft. Add the stock, simmer for 5 minutes. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions, add your cooked beans in the last couple of minutes of cooking time. Portion out into bowls and drizzle tops with jarred pesto or a sprinkle of real parmesan cheese.

Hints and tips: I chopped the garlic and the rosemary at the same time on the board. I sprinkled both with salt, it helps break it all up. In the future, even though the pasta was delicious cooked in the soup, I might cook it separately in the future and add it to the individual bowls, if you are going to have leftovers (and this makes a lot of soup) then pasta doesn't do that well leftover in soup, it can get mushy and swollen! I ended up storing the broth separate from the solid ingredients of the soup in the fridge. This soup, served with a salad and a crusty loaf of bread would be a perfect dinner.